United States

The Principle of the Sovereignty of the People in America

From Democracy in America (De La Démocratie en Amérique) vol. I, by Alexis de Tocqueville, 1835.

Chapter 4: The Principle of the Sovereignty of the People in America

It predominates over the whole of society in America — Application made of this principle by the Americans even before their Revolution — Development given to it by that Revolution — Gradual and irresistible extension of the elective qualification.

Whenever the political laws of the United States are to be discussed, it is with the doctrine of the sovereignty of the people that we must begin. The principle of the sovereignty of the people, which is to be found, more or less, at the bottom of almost all human institutions, generally remains concealed from view. It is obeyed without being recognized, or if for a moment it be brought to light, it is hastily cast back into the gloom of the sanctuary. “The will of the nation” is one of those expressions which have been most profusely abused by the wily and the despotic of every age. To the eyes of some it has been represented by the venal suffrages of a few of the satellites of power; to others by the votes of a timid or an interested minority; and some have even discovered it in the silence of a people, on the supposition that the fact of submission established the right of command.

1564 reads

America’s One Enduring Legacy in History